Poet Ghalib feeding his clothes

1001 Tales told by the Master

“No one recognises souls, only the clothes are recognized,” states Osho.

Mirza Ghalib

You assess people by their wealth, because there is no love within you. So when a rich person comes, you stand up in respect, when a poor person comes then you go on reading your newspaper as if no one has come, or as if a dog or a cat is passing by – as if he is not even a human being.

It happened once:

Ghalib was a great Urdu poet. Bahadur Shah invited him to his court; it was the anniversary of Bahadur Shah’s taking office.

Ghalib’s friends said, “Don’t go like this, in these clothes. Who there will recognize you for what you are? Who there has the eyes to recognize your poetry? Who there has the scale to measure your heart? Who will look within you – who has time for it? Go properly dressed because your beggar-like clothes will not be appreciated there and it is possible that you may be turned back at the door.”

 A poor poet, he had only old and tattered clothes, worn shoes, an old cap. But Ghalib said, “I don’t have any other clothes.”

His friends said, “We will borrow some clothes for you.”

Ghalib said, “That would not be right. I don’t have the slightest interest in borrowing anything. Whatever is not mine is not mine, whatever is mine is mine. No, I would be very uneasy and uncomfortable. I would feel restricted in these clothes, I would not be able to feel free. Why should I go on wearing someone else’s clothes? I will go there in my clothes and whatever happens will happen.”

Ghalib went and when he arrived at the door the doorkeeper was bowing and welcoming everybody, but he pushed Ghalib aside and said to him, “Wait!” When all the other people were gone then the doorkeeper immediately jumped on Ghalib and said, “One should be aware of one’s status. This is a palace. Why are you trying to intrude here?”

Ghalib said, “I am not trying to intrude, I have received an invitation.” He showed the invitation card from his pocket.

The doorkeeper read the invitation card and said, “You must have stolen it from somebody. Go away, don’t come here. Are you crazy? Beggars pretending to be kings!”

Ghalib returned home very sad. His friends said, “We told you! We knew that this would happen, so we have brought these clothes.”

This time Ghalib did not refuse: he put on the borrowed shoes, a borrowed cap, a borrowed robe, everything borrowed. When he arrived at the door the doorkeeper bowed to him. No one recognizes souls, only the clothes are recognized. Ghalib was very surprised. The same doorkeeper who had just yelled at him and asked him to go away, who was ready to beat him up earlier, now didn’t even ask for an invitation card. But Ghalib was already a little afraid. The first experience had made him suffer, so again he took out his invitation card and showed it to the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper looked at it carefully and said, “Now it’s okay. Earlier a beggar had come with the same invitation card with the same name on it. I got rid of him with much difficulty.”

Ghalib went inside and Bahadur Shah had him sit near him. Bahadur Shah was also a poet; he had some taste for poetry. But he was a bit surprised when the meal started: Ghalib was sitting next to him and he was making foolish gestures. Ghalib took some sweets, touched his hat with them and said, “Take them, O hat, eat!” He took some sweets, touched his coat with them and said, “Take them, O coat, eat!”

“Poets are a little crazy,” Bahadur Shah thought, “it is strange, but I should not pay attention to it.” The way of a cultured man is that he should ignore such madnesses, it might touch the person’s wounds. Bahadur Shah started looking everywhere else, not at Ghalib. This went on for a while; Ghalib did not eat at all – he was giving food to all his clothes and even to his shoes. Eventually Bahadur Shah could not resist… there is a limit to etiquette.

He said, “Forgive me. It is not right that I should interfere, it is not right that I should interfere in your personal habits. There may be some custom, some ritual I don’t know about, it may be some religious practice of yours. But out of curiosity I want to ask you what you are doing? These clothes you are wearing, your robe, coat, shoes and hat, why are you giving them food?”

Ghalib said, “Ghalib came here once before, but he was turned away; he has not come again. Now this time the coat and clothes have come – these are all borrowed. Only these clothes have been allowed entry, so I am feeding them. I was not allowed to enter, so it would not be proper for me to eat.”

Then Ghalib told Bahadur Shah the whole story.

Osho, Showering Without Clouds – Reflections on the poetry of an enlightened woman, Sahajo, Ch 3 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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